Why do my hands go numb when raised above my head?

by | Nov 19, 2023 | Shoulder and Arm Pain | 0 comments

Experiencing numbness in your hands when raised above your head can be a confusing and uncomfortable sensation. While it can be common, it can also be indicative of an underlying issue. If you are concerned about this sensation, it’s crucial that you seek medical advice to rule out any serious nervous system conditions. 

Understanding the network of nerves and blood vessels 

To comprehend why your hands may go numb when raised over your head, you need to understand the complex network of nerves and blood vessels that supply your upper extremities. This network includes:

  • Brachial plexus — The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves that go from the spinal cord in the neck through the arms and hands. These nerves are responsible for sensation and movement.

  • Blood vessels — The blood vessels, including arteries and veins, travel alongside the nerves. They provide oxygenated blood and nutrients and also remove waste products. 

Potential causes of numbness 

The numbness you experience when raising your hands over your head could be caused by any one of a number of conditions including:

  • Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) — TOS occurs when your blood vessels or nerves in the thoracic outlet are compressed. The thoracic outlet is located between your collarbone and first rib. Raising your arms above your head can exacerbate this compression and can lead you to experience numbness and tingling in your hands. TOS can be caused by poor posture, injury or anatomical abnormalities.

  • Cervical radiculopathyCervical radiculopathy is a condition where the nerve roots in the cervical spine (your neck) are irritated or compressed. When raising your arms over your head, this compression can get worse. Worsened compression can result in numbness, weakness, and pain that can radiate down your arm into your hands.

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome — Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common neurological disorder caused by the compression of the median nerve in your wrist. Raising your hands over your head can increase pressure on this nerve and cause numbness and tingling. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by repetitive hand motions or other underlying health conditions like diabetes or arthritis.

  • Peripheral neuropathyPeripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to the peripheral nerves. This damage can disrupt communication between your central nervous system and your extremities. Peripheral neuropathy can be attributed to a variety of factors including diabetes, vitamin deficiencies and even certain medications. Peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness and tingling when your hands are raised above your head.

  • Raynaud’s diseaseRaynaud’s disease is a condition where certain areas of the body temporarily experience reduced blood flow in response to cold temperatures or stress. The areas affected are usually the fingers and toes. When raising your hands over your head, blood vessels may become further constricted, causing numbness and a cold sensation in your hands.

  • Nerve entrapment — Nerves in your arms can become entrapped or compressed due to muscle imbalances, repetitive motions or trauma. Raising your arms over your head can make the compression worse.

When to seek medical advice

Experiencing occasional numbness in your hands when you raise them over your head may not always be a cause for concern. However, you should consult a medical professional if:

  • The numbness is persistent or worsening.
  • You experience weakness and/or a loss of coordination, or have difficulty gripping objects.
  • Numbness is accompanied by other symptoms like severe headaches, dizziness or slurred speech.
  • You have a history of a neck or back injury.

Treatment options for hand numbness when raised over your head

After seeking medical advice and receiving a diagnosis, there are a variety of treatment options available depending on your underlying condition, including:

  • Ergonomic changes — If your hand numbness is caused by nerve compression, adjusting your workspace, chair and keyboard height can help reduce strain on your neck and shoulders. This can help relieve nerve compression.

  • Breathing exercises — Learning proper breathing exercises can help reduce tension in your thoracic outlet area and can help reduce strain on nerves.

  • Hot and cold therapy — If your nerve compression is due to inflammation, alternating between hot and cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and relieve nerve-related discomfort.

  • Wrist splints — Wearing wrist splints can help keep your wrists in a neutral position. This neutral position can help reduce pressure on your median nerve.

  • Physical therapyPhysical therapy can address a number of underlying issues. It can help improve your posture, strengthen muscles and release nerve compression. 

How can physical therapy help with your hand going numb when you raise it over your head?

Physical therapy can help address underlying conditions causing your hand numbness. Your physical therapist may use treatments including:

  • Posture correction — Poor posture can cause or worsen nerve compression. A physical therapist can assess your posture and show you stretches that can improve your posture. Improved posture can help relieve pressure on the nerves in your neck and shoulder area.

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises — Your physical therapist may guide you through specific stretching and strengthening exercises intended to improve your flexibility and strengthen your muscles and joints in your neck, shoulders, and arms. This can help alleviate pressure on your nerves, improve circulation and reduce numbness you’re experiencing.

  • Manual therapyHands-on techniques like soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization can help relax tight muscles and improve your joint mobility. Improvement and relaxation can help alleviate pressure on your nerves, promote better circulation and help reduce numbness. 

Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness can help you overcome the numbness in your hands when you raise your hands over your head

At Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness, we can provide you with a comprehensive and personalized approach to your experience of numbness when you raise your hands over your head. We can help empower you to regain your body’s functionality through a customized care plan. By focusing on improving your strength, flexibility and balance, we can help you find relief from numbness and improve your overall well-being. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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